Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Going Loopy

Here I am playing catch up again, this time with tales of a yarntastic adventure.  So without further ado...

Back at the beginning of February, it was finally time to cash in on a Christmas gift bought for me by my beloved.  You may have noticed I am rather partial to all things crafty.  I can sew, I can quilt, I can crochet,  and all sorts of other things besides.  One glaring omission seemed to be the fact that I couldn't knit.  I've pondered for years whether I wanted to learn.  Did I really have time for yet another hobby?  But back in my Den languished numerous vintage magazines and patterns full of the most desirable knitted garments.  What's a girl to do but give it a go?

So one fine Saturday morning, off I set to Islington and that mecca of knitters, Loop, in Camden Passage.  I have visited the shop quite  few times before so the prospect of attending a beginners' knitting course here had me salivating.

One can't help but stop and ponder the delights in the window.  I pretty much fell in love with this knitted bird.  Maybe next Christmas?

I spotted a new creature designed by a textile artist I much admire and whose work you may well recognise,  Julie Arkell.  She also teaches workshops here, not everything is solely yarn related.

It was a treat to be let inside before the shop actually opened for business.  I headed downstairs which is where the workshops are held.  It's an inspiring place with lots of whacky and wonderful yarny creations on display and a large table for the seven of us to sit around.  A pair of needles and a ball of yarn awaited us.  Yikes!  Our teacher was to be an American young lady named Meghan Fernandes (she also publishes a knitting magazine which you may know of, called PomPom).  She was to prove an excellent teacher and the group being small, had enough time to give us individual attention.  I was the only person who actually had zero knitting experience.  Oh!  Everyone else had at least had a go and ranged from the novice to the too-good-to-be-on-a-beginners'-course. 

I was distracted by a rather yummy barkcloth cushion on the bench at the end of the table, accompanied by a fine ripple blanket.

I found it quite ok to understand the way one knits and purls.  It took me a little while to get used to how to pass the yarn through my fingers.

Over the space of two Saturdays (three hours each time), I also managed to cast on and off.  I did find it harder when I got home though.  I could still manage the stitches most of the time but what I have found really hard is knowing how to correct a mistake.  If you are a crocheter, you will know that if you go wrong, you simply take out your hook and unravel the yarn.  Easy peasy.  But with knitting?  Oh dear.  That seems a whole different ball game.  I couldn't bear for any element of my knitted thingy to go wrong and it was most frustrating not knowing how to put things right and be able to move on.  Aaaarrrgghh!

Luckily, above me there were two floors of yarntastic delights to soothe and inspire me.

I pondered what my first project might be.  I liked this scarf, at least I knew I could manage the crocheted edging!  Ultimately, I didn't feel confident enough to actually start a project and felt I needed more practise.  Although the shop is chock-full of the most gorgeous yarn, I also didn't think it was sensible to buy anything expensive and fancy to practise with.  It's not as if I am short of yarn at home!

It didn't stop me looking though.

Look at that divine rug!  I think it may be the work of Nathalie Lete?

Yarn, yarn, yarn.

I did buy a book to help me on my knitting quest but I must confess, that I have not attempted to knit for weeks.  Naughty.  One thing I am finding hard is that there are so many other things I can do which I am better at and so give me instant gratification.  I have been really busy with quilt commissions recently so that has been one thing keeping me away from the needles.  I've now finished this gorgeous large Liberty Tana Lawn quilt save for adding a name patch and will post it out this week.

I have been baking for the Sport Relief efforts at school.  I can  bake, oh yes indeedy.

I've been baking even more to entertain some friends.  We had a little afternoon tea together which was oh so nice.

And we are decorating yet again.  This time it's just a little teeny tiny room on the first floor, I call it the "throne room".  You probably get my drift.  Teeny it may be but it's still hard to get it done on top of everything else.  It has meant, however,  that I've tried another little crafty project for the first time.  One that has turned out rather well.  It's created a little flurry of excitement on Instagram, I think it's fair to say.

I've promised to post a little "how to" in the near future so when the room is finished, hopefully not too far off now, that's exactly what I will do.

Toodle pip for now. Xxx

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Getting Shirty

How have you all been, readers?  It's been busy, busy, busy here.  Lots going on at home and lots of quilt commissions to make.  Oooh goody.  The sunshine has made a welcome return, giving my Instagram pis a bit of a hazy glow.

In between the joyous task of making quilts for other lovely folk, I carved out a rewarding 36 hours or so for a little me-sewing-time.  I was seized by the urge to get to grips with my Liberty Tana Lawn stash.  Yummy.

I started by separating everything into bundles by colour.  I usually try to keep my fabric stash like this anyway but I guess even I must pull something out and shove it back in any old how now and then!

After a couple of hours with the ruler and rotary cutter, I had a lovely Liberty fabric buffet and it was time to refuel with a late breakfast.

I headed upstairs to my quilty den in search of a little hoarded treasure.

I found it.  I think you can guess what I had been stockpiling for a few years now.  No, I hadn't pinched all of Mr HenHouse's shirts.  Ok, I'd kept a few which had gone a little frayed round the collar or cuffs, and the rest had come from charity shops.  One thing about living in London, lots of nice work shirts discarded in good condition by city workers!

It took me quite a while to cut those 5" squares from the shirts.  Not quite so easy as cutting into a pristine fat quarter.  I also cut some vintage sheeting and some modern polka dot and striped cottons to arrive at my desired fabric buffet.

Before too long, I was sticking squares on my design wall and liking what I was seeing.

Time to spend a lovely afternoon piecing away on Jenny Janome. Piecing is pretty much my favourite thing so I was a happy lady. Many of the shirts, if they are good quality ones, are made from fine fabric very similar in feel and weight to the Tana Lawn. Some, and the vintage linens and modern cottons, were a little thicker.  It is true that patchworking together different weight fabrics is not as easy as quilting cotton.  Tana Lawn can be tricky to sew as it is thin and a little slippery.  I find it best to go down a needle size to a number 70 and use a smallish stitch size.  I had no problems.

In between, I had pleasure in despatching another pretty quilt to a cat-loving repeat customer in nearby Kent.

Time to head back upstairs once the piecing was competed, and get that quilt top basted.  It's not a thrilling job but made much easier working on a table rather than on the floor, and it's soon done whilst listening to the radio.

A finished quilt emerged, within two days of having started.

I'm really pleased with it, if I may say.  This colour scheme of soft blues, pinks and aquas is a favourite of mine.  I love the old, soft and faded look the used shirts and vintage cottons give.  I love the contrast of the prettier than pretty Liberty lawns and the utilitarian stripes and spots.  It goes without saying that the Tana Lawn and recycled fabrics feel deliciously soft and tactile.  Liberty Lawn quilts are always very lightweight, too.  Scrumptious.

I decided to treat myself to a Liberty Lawn backing and headed off to the very shop where I picked out my favourite print, Betsy, in a gorgeous china blue and pretty pink.  A polka dot pink poplin binding was the perfect finishing touch.  The Liberty Lawn backing is a bit of a nuisance to quilt, it does have a tendency to pucker, but it went well after the first main seams were in place.

Here it lives on my newly upholstered chair.  More on that and other generally chair-sy news soon.